4-439 To Lieutenant General Joseph W. Stilwell, July 7, 1944

Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Date: July 7, 1944

Subject: World War II

To Lieutenant General Joseph W. Stilwell

July 7, 1944 Radio No. WAR-61514 Washington, D.C.


For Stilwell’s eyes only from Marshall.

Yesterday morning the President dispatched a radio to CKS to the following general effect: Serious situation in Central China leads to conclusion that drastic measures must be taken immediately. It calls for delegation to one individual of power to coordinate all the Allied military resources in China including the Communist forces.1

“I think I am fully aware of your feelings regarding General Stilwell, nevertheless, I think he has now clearly demonstrated his far-sighted judgment, his skill in organization and training and above all, in fighting your Chinese forces. I know of no other man who has the ability, the force, and the determination to offset the disaster which now threatens China and our over all plans for the conquest of Japan. I am promoting Stilwell to the rank of full General and recommend for your most urgent consideration that you recall him from Burma and place him directly under you in command of all Chinese and American Forces and that you charge him with the full responsibility and authority for the coordination and direction of the operations required to stem the tide of the enemy’s advances.”

Among other matters he says: “Please have in mind that it has been clearly demonstrated in Italy, in France, and in the Pacific, that air power alone cannot stop a determined enemy.” He further states: “Should you agree to giving Stilwell such assignment as I now propose I would recommend that General Sultan, a very fine officer who is now his deputy be placed in command of the Chinese-American Forces in Burma, but under Stilwell’s direction.”

In all this matter the difficulty has been the offense you have given, usually in small affairs, both to the Generalissimo and to the President. Had you yourself, or at least someone on your staff, devoted a little attention to promoting harmonious relations, I think the above proposal of the President, at least insofar as his backing you and your recommendations, would have been made long ago. Now please consistently and continuously avoid unnecessary irritations in order that you can make a tremendous contribution to this war. I have felt that it has been remarkable, the manner in which you have accepted my disagreeable radios, apparently without prejudice or bitterness. However, it has been even more remarkable how quickly a new set of irritating circumstances is built up, most of which I think have been unnecessary. I ask you please this time make a continuous effort to avoid wrecking yours and our plans because of inconsequential matters or disregard of conventional courtesies.

Whether or not the Generalissimo will agree to the President’s proposal remains to be seen but in any event it should make clear to him that the President is now backing you to the full. Win over to your side anyone who can help in the battle which will result from the violent hostility of those Chinese who will lose face by your appointment.2

Document Copy Text Source: Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs (RG 165), Records of the Operations Division (OPD), Executive File 10, Item 60, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Document Format: Typed radio message.

1. For previous discussion, see Memorandum for the President from the U.S. Chiefs of Staff, July 4, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-434 [4: 503-6].

2. “Your message and instructions are unmistakably plain,” replied Stilwell. “If this new assignment materializes, I will tackle it to the best of my ability. I am keenly aware of the honor of the President’s confidence and of yours, and I pledge my word to him and to you that I will ‘consistently and continuously avoid unnecessary irritations’ and get on with the war. I fully realize that I will have to justify that confidence, and I find it even in prospect a heavy load for a country boy.” (Stilwell to Marshall, Radio No. CHC-1260, July 9, 1944, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

Meanwhile, on July 8, Chiang Kai-shek responded to Roosevelt that he agreed “with the principle” of appointing Stilwell to the command of all Allied forces in China, but that political limitations inherent in the Chinese Army made it necessary to have a “preparatory period” before Stilwell could assume command. “I very much hope that you will be able to dispatch an influential personal representative who enjoys your complete confidence, is given with full power and has a far-sighted political vision and ability, to constantly collaborate with me and he may also adjust the relations between me and General Stilwell so as to enhance the cooperation between China and America,” replied the Generalissimo. “You will appreciate the fact that military cooperation in its absolute sense must be built on the foundation of political cooperation.” (Chiang Kai-shek to Roosevelt, July 8, 1944, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].)

Roosevelt replied on July 13 that he was “searching for a personal representative with farsighted political vision and ability to collaborate with you.” But Roosevelt reminded the Generalissimo that “the emergencies are primarily military” and he had in mind “the urgent necessity for delegating at once to one individual the power to take immediate military direction of forces and operations in central China.” He needed time to choose the correct person for the political representative; “in the meantime I again urge you to take all steps to pave the way for General Stilwell’s assumption of command at the earliest possible moment,” replied Roosevelt. (President to Chiang Kai-shek, July 13, 1944, GCMRL/G. C. Marshall Papers [Pentagon Office, Selected].) For further discussion, see Marshall to Stilwell, August 3, 1944, Papers of George Catlett Marshall, #4-473 [4: 544-45].

Recommended Citation: ThePapers of George Catlett Marshall, ed.Larry I. Bland and Sharon Ritenour Stevens(Lexington, Va.: The George C. Marshall Foundation, 1981- ). Electronic version based on The Papers of George Catlett Marshall, vol. 4, “Aggressive and Determined Leadership,” June 1, 1943-December 31, 1944 (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), pp. 508-510.

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